ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:32 pm

I just want to say a few words about question content from the perspective of An Old and a reader.

First, let's give a shoutout to Billy Busse for his awesome work on the science. I would have loved to play a tournament where the science questions were this meticulously written. Billy did a great job finding good, informative clues and explaining why they were useful.

At the same time, my feeling is that in many areas, this edition of Nationals skewed harder than was necessary. I saw this manifested in several ways, including too-difficult bonus parts and tossups that didn't play well because of the difficulty of either the answer line or the clues.

With regard to bonus parts, some categories seemed to just be incredibly stingy when it came to middle parts, and some allegedly-easy parts were downright ridiculous. There's no way Halford Mackinder should be considered "easy." Yes, good teams will eat that up; there are still about 25-30 teams that are going to feel like that bonus just killed their dog and burned down their house. The "hard" parts often tended toward the downright impossible, so that you very rarely had a true chance at a 30. What I would have liked to see is a bit of a downward shift in the overall bonus difficulty: I'm not saying "give good teams an automatic 30" but the top teams should have a realistic chance of getting that on a bonus, while the bottom teams could use some relief with respect to easy parts. Those parts do not need to be of the "find your ass" variety, but they should certainly be easier than Mackinder. This was a problem with some science bonuses as well, where teams without a full-time physics person, for example, could end up brutalized.

As far as tossups go, a lot of the questions ended up being on stuff that was probably too hard as an answer choice. I definitely enjoyed a lot of them from a "how much would I have liked to hypothetically have played this tournament" perspective, but overall, every round could probably have dropped two or so really hard tossups in favor of two easier ones. I think that would have been more enjoyable for everyone, and it's a bit of a bummer that the top teams regularly had trouble combining for over 400 points in their mutual matches.

Overall my feeling is that this tournament was full of many great questions, some of which were more difficult than the field really needed. It's probably a good idea to walk the difficulty back a notch or so next year, but this was still a very high quality tournament.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:40 pm

Let me try and lay out a more rigorous, though brief, exposition of what I'm arguing for.


Let's suppose that buzzes in this game can be broken down into three categories:
1. "Pure Real Knowledge" Buzz: One where you buzz on a clue that you have encountered by reading some primary or secondary source completely independently of this game (i.e. you would have acquired the information even if this game didn't exist);
2. "Partial Real Knowledge" Buzz: One where you buzz on a clue because quizbowl has inspired you to read a primary or secondary source (i.e. you expanded on something that has come up in quizbowl by going out and learning more about it, even if that just means that you read the full Wiki article on it or an encyclopedia article, or the Grove entry on that composer, or whatever - maybe you even did that in the process of writing your own question on that topic for quizbowl);
3. "Quiz Bowl Knowledge" Buzz: One where you buzz on a clue because you learned it directly from playing this game (i.e. it has appeared in a packet before, and that's how you learned it).


I like seeing good buzzes in all three categories above. I think that you can make a "great buzz" in all three of those categories, and I aim to allow for equal chance for all three buzzes to happen. But, the modern trend now is basically that: people wildly celebrate category #1, occasionally applaud for category #2, and spit on category #3. Or, at the very least, regard category #3 as just a necessary evil of this game and see it as an inferior, sub-optimal buzz on a question to be avoided if at all possible. I fundamentally reject that turn of attitude that's taken place.

Let's just take The Fifth Column. The chance of a category #1 buzz is low (although, would it really surprise me if someone like Ike Jose or Will Nediger had read that work? No. But it's still admittedly quite low). However, there should be a decent chance of a good category #2 or #3 buzz. Ernest Hemingway is super famous and that's his only play - so while you may not be particularly enthralled by the notion of running out and reading that work (because it's not high on your list of "good literature to read"), you are certainly put on notice that it's something that can come up - and you can easily read a masterplots-esque summary of the work, or memorize a few characters and a 2-3 line summary of the plot of the work from either a previous packet or an online source. If you do that and you buzz pre-FTP on that tossup, I think that's a really great buzz, and I'm not inclined to cast it into the flames the way that lots of people want to do these days.

Now, sure, it could certainly be reworked and done well as a Hemingway tossup - and I don't necessarily have an issue with that. ...Unless you nutjobs go put a bunch of "Hills Like White Elephants" clues into the middle of the tossup, and backload the clues some poor sap went out and memorized about Fifth Column, once again kicking that player in that nuts! I know you will, I've seen you do it!

The point I'm trying to make is that I think my questions tend to be equally sympathetic to all three types of knowledge above, and not preferential towards any one of them.


Also, just cause I'm me and I have to say things like this - David Dacko is so not hard. He's in the same tier of African presidents as Nyerere or Kaunda, and above the tier that includes people like Bongo or Banda. Dacko is a staple of the canon. Very uncontroversial answer choice to my mind.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:50 pm

I haven't seen this set, and didn't write any of the questions being complained about; but I can't resist a discussion of what is "beyond the pale" in 20th-century American lit questions!

If I'm reading this discussion correctly, the view being expressed is that a tossup on Hemingway's "The Fifth Column" is beyond the pale, but a tossup on Stevens's "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman" is very hard, but not offensive in the same way as a tossup on "The Fifth Column"? If that's correct as an expression of people's views, I think it's crazy.

First, what's wrong with "The Fifth Column"? It's obviously not one of Hemingway's top ten titles, but it is important--both in how it figures into Hemingway's life, and in its unique place in his canon as his only full-length play--and it is obviously gettable at the end (assuming it has a standard giveaway).

Second, "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman" is a terrible idea for a tossup--there are literally at least ten poems more important than it just in Harmonium alone. I don't think there is anything significant to say about the poem except that the term "the supreme fiction" happens to appear in it, and it has no obvious giveaway (i.e. it is going to go dead unless someone happens to know that this--again, not at all important--Stevens poem exists.) Without knowing any more about the context, I can only conclude that it has been mentioned in recent packets and thus somebody decided "now it's time for this to be a tossup answer!" (i.e. Westbrookianism at its worst) or that it was chosen at random.

Anyway, I don't mean to detract from a discussion of Westbrookian wackiness or other complaints with the tournament, but I am finding this apparent take on these lit questions so odd that I couldn't resist piping up.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Rufous-capped Thornbill » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:55 pm

I have more comprehensive thoughts on this tournament that I may or may not ever post, but as someone who actually has read The Fifth Column, I can say that it, like much of Hemingway's work, frankly, is bad and important only in that it is his only play (at least in my opinion. By the time I got around to it I may have been suffering from severe Hemingway fatigue), and probably never should have been tossed up. I have much less of an issue tossing up interesting but more obscure topics than I do tossing up 5th tier works by 1st tier writers (or artists, musicians, etc). I don't think the latter approach makes for either interesting questions or ideal gameplay.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Auks Ran Ova » Mon Apr 20, 2015 5:58 pm

As it happens, the Stevens poem was one of the editors lit questions that wasn't freelanced by Ike, so I can provide some context: "recent packets" had nothing whatsoever to do with why I chose it; I'd encountered it in class and knew it contained an extremely famous line, so I figured it was likely othet lit or poetry types had had similar experiences and decided to toss it up, knowing in advance that it would still be one of the hardest lit answers in the tournament. Evidently it still overshot the mark, and while I'm surprised it went dead, I have no problem bowing to the weight of empirical evidence and admitting it was too hard.

I'll have a fuller post later--sorry to dart in and out like this, but I've been phone posting from the road.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:00 pm

If you want to just get down to brass tacks, take a look at these Editors Packets (not including Finals and not including science):

#1: Hairy Ape, Horatian Ode, Tolstoy, Sailor Who Fell From Grace..., Foreign Affairs, Abdulhamid, Ching Dynasty, John Wilkes, Senegal, Cattle Raid of Cooley, epoche, Bronzino, second symphonies, Jelly Roll Morton, Elizabeth Loftus, Wartburg

#2: Albee, last name Thomas (Dylan), Michael Kohlhaas, Nectar in a Sieve, Eaton, Seleucus, UAR, Battle of Pavia, Wesley family, Cecrops, Burke, Picasso, galop, Bela Tarr, game theory, cruel and unusual punishment

#3: Anxiety of Influence, Coriolanus, Kertesz, Aethiopica, Peter Minuit, Chamberlain, Polybius, Dacko, Tenrikyo, Xipe Totec, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Archhitect's Dream, Lloyd Wright, Posner, motivation

#4: Kinsman Major Molinaux, Between the Acts, Leopardi, Makioka Sisters, West Virginia, Argos, Shrewsbury, Satsuma, Peter Waldo, apsaras, JL Austin, Nightmare, Hummel, Indonesia, Tristes Tropiques, Forgotten Man

#5: V by Pyncheon, John Buchan, Dictionary of the Khazars, Death and the Maiden, Thomas Hart Benton, Naples, Elam, Livonian Order, Billy Sunday, Lancelot, Will to Believe, Last Judgment, St. Matthew Passion, Patience, Mystery of Capital, pataphysics

#6: Fifth Column, Candida, Baudolino, Malaria, Oberlin, Black and Tans, Licinius, Abydos, Seven Sages, Baba Yaga's Hut, A System of Logic, Delacroix, concerto grosso, Great Britain (Art), inflection, Green River



I've bolded the answers which strike me as noticeable difficult - there is a decent handful in Editors #5, I suppose, but not really any other editor packet. And, outside of Billy Sunday, Bela Tarr, Fifth Column, and maybe Patience - every single other question seems like standard fare to me for the upper level canon.
Last edited by No Rules Westbrook on Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by felgon123 » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:04 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I haven't seen this set, and didn't write any of the questions being complained about; but I can't resist a discussion of what is "beyond the pale" in 20th-century American lit questions!

If I'm reading this discussion correctly, the view being expressed is that a tossup on Hemingway's "The Fifth Column" is beyond the pale, but a tossup on Stevens's "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman" is very hard, but not offensive in the same way as a tossup on "The Fifth Column"? If that's correct as an expression of people's views, I think it's crazy.

First, what's wrong with "The Fifth Column"? It's obviously not one of Hemingway's top ten titles, but it is important--both in how it figures into Hemingway's life, and in its unique place in his canon as his only full-length play--and it is obviously gettable at the end (assuming it has a standard giveaway).

Second, "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman" is a terrible idea for a tossup--there are literally at least ten poems more important than it just in Harmonium alone. I don't think there is anything significant to say about the poem except that the term "the supreme fiction" happens to appear in it, and it has no obvious giveaway (i.e. it is going to go dead unless someone happens to know that this--again, not at all important--Stevens poem exists.) Without knowing any more about the context, I can only conclude that it has been mentioned in recent packets and thus somebody decided "now it's time for this to be a tossup answer!" (i.e. Westbrookianism at its worst) or that it was chosen at random.

Anyway, I don't mean to detract from a discussion of Westbrookian wackiness or other complaints with the tournament, but I am finding this apparent take on these lit questions so odd that I couldn't resist piping up.
I'm not sure whether this represents the take of others involved in this discussion, but it is not mine. I am in complete agreement with your assessment of "A High-Toned Old Christian Woman," and I say this as someone who likes that poem and would likely first-line any tossup on it (I didn't watch the finals, so I don't know exactly how it went). I also maintain that The Fifth Column is a ludicrously hard tossup answer, so if the editors are truly itching to get more Fifth Column content into their tournament, they should either make it a bonus part or convert that tossup into a tossup on Hemingway with the early clues being taken from the play.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by historical pun » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:11 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote: Also, just cause I'm me and I have to say things like this - David Dacko is so not hard. He's in the same tier of African presidents as Nyerere or Kaunda, and above the tier that includes people like Bongo or Banda. Dacko is a staple of the canon. Very uncontroversial answer choice to my mind.
David Dacko is not on the same level as Nyerere or Kuanda, whether you use quizbowl famousness, real famousness, or whatever metric you want. He's below the two you mentioned as being below him as well.

This example I think illustrates the problem with setting aside 'out there' questions ahead of time- sometimes questions that even great editors think of as being fine are, in fact, 'out there.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:15 pm

If Omar Bongo or Hastings Banda has now risen to greater quizbowl fame than Dave Dacko, something is very wrong in the land of Oz. Maybe that means Dave Dacko is now "shadow canon"? If so, I'm glad I wrote on him.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:19 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote: And, outside of Billy Sunday, Bela Tarr, Fifth Column, and maybe Patience - every single other question seems like standard fare to me for the upper level canon.
I actually agree. The editors' packets were flooded with "standard fare...for the upper-level canon," which, to you, includes answers like David Dacko. I think it's pretty easy to see how using this kind of philosophy, instead of including lots of easy stuff to soften the blow of the harder outliers you mentioned*, leads to the excessive difficulty that the field perceived.

*I'd bold more than you did, fwiw. Xipe Totec, dude? Livonian Order?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Nicklausse/Muse » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:23 pm

Mind posting the questions on Grotowski, Patience, and Virgil Thomson? I'm especially interested in the Patience question since people are saying it was very hard.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:24 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:If Omar Bongo or Hastings Banda has now risen to greater quizbowl fame than Dave Dacko, something is very wrong in the land of Oz. Maybe that means Dave Dacko is now "shadow canon"? If so, I'm glad I wrote on him.
Let me peel this apart a little. Disclaimer: I negged that question with Andre Kolingba because i r dum.

I don't want to speak for other people in this discussion, but the reason I found David Dacko to be a subpar answerline was because it was derivative in a very specific way. Dacko is a staple of tossups on Bokassa, as his predecessor and successor; there's not much more important about him, both in a quizbowl sense and a real-world sense. That's not true of Hastings Banda and Omar Bongo, as Jonathan has pointed out. I think a tossup on Dacko opens the doors for tossups on people like Marcelo Caetano, Ion Iliescu, the dude with the unpronounceable name who succeeded Turkmenbashi, and various other figures who are only known because they have some one-step tangential relationship with a more notable one. I don't think this is the path I want to see the quizbowl canon going down, and it's certainly not the way I prefer to scale difficulty in any given category.

I think Billy's work is a model for how to scale difficulty in a given category - he followed the threads in chemistry to pick several answerlines that were important, canonical, and gettable all at the same time (glass transition temperature being a great example of a thing learned in chem classes that is very hard, but gettable). I think if the history and lit took a similar path, it would not have generated so many complaints. As Tommy very correctly said, the only reason I wasn't left out to dry was because Billy didn't make the tournament harder in a trivial way; even his hard parts were things I knew I should know (like tributyltin hydride). I think that is the kind of hard question we should all be aiming for when we write.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by hydrocephalitic listlessness » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:28 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote: I do write history in a very traditional quizbowl way, a throwback style that is very anti-Marshall Steinbaum (i.e. it rejects a social science-derived approach to history, in favor of focusing on the hard facts of increasingly deep names and events and people).
Leaving the question of this style's legitimacy aside, it clearly produces questions that are inherently less interesting/stimulating than a more inclusive approach. It also has the added effect of driving away people who aren't committed to the prospect of memorizing "increasingly deep names" in an extremely limited context. Questions on totally non-trivial topics can still feel trivial, as this tournament's history demonstrated repeatedly.

Beyond that, I thought the set was pretty good. There were a bunch of weirdly clustered repeats—two consecutive rounds with Platonic dialogue tossups, two consecutive rounds with Dickens-related tossups, etc.—and some abnormal overrepresentation (Beethoven, Polish literature), but nothing too ridiculous.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:29 pm

Despite not having seen any of these questions, I will say that "bolding answerlines out of context and decreeing that they are, or are not, 'noticeably difficult'" is a meaningless exercise. "Second symphonies" could be easy or impossible, depending on the clues you decide to use. Likewise, any of the allegedly "facially not-so-difficult" answers could range from the notional "regular difficulty" to "absolutely impossible"; it all depends on clue selection. (By contrast, there is presumably no set of clues that will render a tossup on "Aethiopica" anything other than "noticeably difficult"--to put it mildly!--unless Heliodorus is undergoing quite the vogue of late.)

Also, the arbitrariness of this bolding is hilarious. "The Anxiety of Influence" is "noticeably difficult", but "pataphysics" isn't? Ditto for, e.g., "My Kinsman Major Molineux" v. "Elizabeth Loftus"--I literally cannot imagine a reasoned basis on which these value judgments are being made, unless it's just "Ryan feels as if he's encountered topic X more frequently than topic Y in his browsing of old packets."
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by historical pun » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:33 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:If Omar Bongo or Hastings Banda has now risen to greater quizbowl fame than Dave Dacko, something is very wrong in the land of Oz. Maybe that means Dave Dacko is now "shadow canon"? If so, I'm glad I wrote on him.

I don't have any special knowledge of David Dacko's degree of canoninity. What I do know is that the other leaders you mentioned were undisputed rulers of their countries for very lengthy periods of time, to the point where to know anything about those countries meant that you knew them. This is very much not the case for Dacko, hence I think it is appropriate to describe him as not being at all in the same tier.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Ike » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:33 pm

I guess I'll post the lit questions I freelanced for Rob in terms of TUs:

The Hairy Ape
Edward Albee
Aethiopica
Makioka Sisters
My Kinsman, Major molineux
V
Death and the maiden (Rob's answerline)
Candida (Rob's answerline)
Baudolino (Rob's answerline)
Innocent's Abroad
A Rebours
The Rape of the Lock (TB)
Amy Lowell (TB)
and Mephisto in Finals 1.

The only tossup on this list that I think is really hard is the Aethiopica - to be frank, if these went dead in any top bracket room with the exception of the Aethiopica, I would be very surprised or just figured someone derped on the title. To be honest, I'm proud of a lot of these tossups - The Makioka Sisters, Albee, Rape of the Lock, and Mephisto questions were written with that Gioian / Adams style of "coreness" in mind, and to be honest, I consider Innocents Abroad and My Kinsman, Major Molineux core* - though some may dispute that. I might be working on nats next year as well - and if I do, I will collaborate with Rob or the lit editor more to tone down some of the difficulty of answers. Just to be clear, I think Rob crafted some great questions - you have no idea how much I would love to play a Buchan / Tweedsmuir question. I just think Buchan and Dictionary of the Khazars should be outliers, not the norm, and definitely not in the same packet.

Tommy brings up a good point about the science in the finals. Ryan told me that the Finals were going to be harder and when I saw his answerlines, I decided to make sure I wasn't writing disproportionately easy stuff in my categories. (When In Rome...) In finals 1, I wrote everything in my categories and the Mephisto TU and the one on Hector's Body. None of those questions went dead, so I like to think I'm still somewhat in touch with players when I subject them to a hard tossup. I guess next year, if I work on the set, I'll collaborate with Rob or whoever is editing Nats to make sure things are gettable - though I guess when I saw Rob's answer choices for the finals, I wasn't like "that's impossible!" I like the idea of a harder finals, I just don't like seeing more than 2 dead TUs in a finals - although to be fair, I think if UVA and Penn were in the finals, it's possible all tossups would be gotten.

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*I consider it core because I think Twain is one of those writers whose corpus in its entirety can be read by many intelligent people. Also, you can definitely have read the entirety of Hawthorne's short stories as well. I consider this the equivalent of treating "The Short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne" a "core novel" and then tossing up a "story" from it to be like tossing up a character from the novel, if only for the purposes of QB purposes.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:33 pm

Is it wrong of me that I kind of yawn anymore when I see tossups on Xipe Totec or Dictionary of the Khazars? I guess it's wrong. They've just been done so many times at this point; they seem almost pedestrian.


Whatever, I've gone too far afield - I'll let Rob and Ike speak to literature and social science and stuff like that. I disagree on Dacko's importance; I learned about him completely independently of Bokassa (in fact, I think I knew clues about Dacko way before I knew clues about Bokassa - I think the first dude to rule newly independent African countries just used to be a thing that came up more).

I think I've made my point in general about the history questions outside of the Finals - the history in this tourney was way below the difficulty that I'd do for something like Chi Open. Now, the Finals? Yeah, balls hard. But, ouside of the finals, I refer to my previous post on history answer choices. Not really that hard.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Nabonidus » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:34 pm

I would just like to point out that Bela Tarr is one of the most lauded directors alive - Satantango even made it into Sight & Sound's poll of the top 50 films ever - and I'm actually quite surprised that multiple people in this thread consider him more obscure than some of the other stuff in those packets.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:37 pm

Rather than have literally everyone in quizbowl pop in here and attempt to universalize their experiences to make claims about how difficult David Dacko and the Old Court/New Court controversy are in the grand scheme of fame, I suggest that we agree on the general principle that determining the difficulty of a tossup answer is a highly subjective process that, in any individual case, can easily result in errors in judgment. For example, as someone who knows several clues about the Old Court/New Court controversy (due to recent encounters with another question, not any particular interest in the subject), I would have had no problem green-lighting that into the set. Others, like Matt Bollinger, can rely on their experiences to claim, equally validly, that the tossup felt very difficult to them. There's no way to reconcile that.

One thing I've noticed is that people tend to fall back on an abstract concept of "importance" when attempting to argue that their perception of the difficulty of a question is the more valid one. I think this is always fruitless and mildly pernicious. For example, above, we have Evan arguing that the Old Court/New Court controversy is a minor, regional kerfuffle that had very little lasting impact on anyone. Below, Jerry and Marshall make the case that, in fact, the controversy had important connotations and effects. I'm guessing you can find historians and quizbowlers alike who are willing to take both sides on this (or any) issue.

(For another example, above, Andrew makes the claim that The Fifth Column is of sufficient interest and importance to warrant asking about. He is a trained scholar in American lit. Another such person in the Hemingway Review claims: "The Fifth Column is generally regarded (when it is regarded at all) to be something of an anomaly in the Hemingway canon. The author's only full-length play, and one which has garnered little critical or commercial attention, it is, as John Raeburn diplomatically puts it, a work 'not integral to [Hemingway's] literary reputation.'")

My point in calling attention to these differing opinions is not to argue that one is more correct than the other. Reasonable minds, even reasonable minds that have been trained in specialty disciplines like American history or literature, can certainly disagree on how much "importance" should be attached to a regional controversy or a minor Hemingway work. Instead, I'd like to offer the following argument: claims about how hard a tournament was are empirical, and depend on hard data about how many questions were answered and when the buzzes occurred; they are not about how important the topics asked about were, and do not depend on how much importance any particular expert attaches to a particular answer, and similarly, they do not depend on one person's universalization of their subjective feeling of playing the question (i.e. I perceived this as confusing, therefore it was confusing). I think people should stop attempting to justify their opinions about whether something should or should not have been tossed up with claims about how "important" that thing was.

That said, I think those who have argued that ACF Nationals matches should have fewer dead tossups have made a persuasive case. Although it was somewhat surprising to me that a few particular answers went dead throughout the day, and even in the finals, it was not surprising to me that there were many dead tossups on the whole, because many of the answers struck me subjectively as very difficult. As I said above, it's very hard to assess difficulty in any individual case, but it's typically much easier to see if you're skewing hard on the whole. I think this tournament did skew hard as a whole, to its detriment, and I hope that future editors take note and aim a little lower.

I don't want to detract too much from the set, because I thought it was creative, well-edited, and extremely enjoyable to read and watch great teams play on. And I think that the tournament did a good job ranking the teams on their merits, which is the whole purpose of Nationals. Most exciting to me are the new and creative ways that people are asking on the topics that people know. We're getting to a point where the form of a quizbowl tossup is being stretched and tweaked to unlock everything that it's capable of; it's amazingly great to watch, and these editors are at the forefront of that creative process. This was a tournament (like many recent ones, actually!) that made me felt invigorated about the potential of quizbowl to continue to evolve in exciting ways.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by The King's Flight to the Scots » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:39 pm

As I said above, the problem isn't that any tossup in isolation is indefensible, it's that the accumulated total of the "pretty hard" canonical tossups and the "noticeable outliers" leads to a subpar set. It's also just boring to have tons of tossups on what Ryan calls "standard upper-level canon fare" like Dictionary of the Khazars and Xipe Totec. Although...apparently the head editor of the set also thinks those questions were stale? Whatever.
One thing I've noticed is that people tend to fall back on an abstract level of "importance" when attempting to argue that their perception of the difficulty of a question is the more valid one. I think this is always fruitless and mildly pernicious. For example, above, we have Matt Bollinger arguing that the Old Court/New Court controversy is a minor, regional kerfuffle that had very little lasting impact on anyone. Below, Jerry and Marshall make the case that, in fact, the controversy had important connotations and effects. I'm guessing you can find historians and quizbowlers alike who are willing to take both sides on this (or any) issue.
I'm pretty sure Evan said this, not me. In any case, I've never used a binary standard of "important/unimportant" in my arguments in this thread. There's a spectrum of topics that are more accessible or less accessible to people with intellectual curiosity regarding the field that's independent of, or extends past, quizbowl. Old Court-New Court, for example, is far on the "less accessible" end of that spectrum. As Ryan's basically said, tons of stuff in this tournament was in the "less accessible," "hard canon" part.

I also agree with Eric's description of what makes a good hard answer.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by at your pleasure » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:42 pm

Birdofredum Sawin wrote: Also, the arbitrariness of this bolding is hilarious. "The Anxiety of Influence" is "noticeably difficult", but "pataphysics" isn't? Ditto for, e.g., "My Kinsman Major Molineux" v. "Elizabeth Loftus"--I literally cannot imagine a reasoned basis on which these value judgments are being made, unless it's just "Ryan feels as if he's encountered topic X more frequently than topic Y in his browsing of old packets."
Yea, I'll weigh in and express surprise that Palenque is considered "noticeably hard" but some of the un-bolded history isn't. Actually, could you post the tossup?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Kouign Amann » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:51 pm

Auroni wrote:Ike informed me that The Fifth Column tossup was written by Zeke and was kept because it amused the editors. This is not a good justification for having a question, especially not at a Nationals tournament, especially not during the last stages of the playoff rounds where every tossup in every game between the best teams counts.
I'd like to make sure that this point doesn't get lost, because it's not isolated. When I expressed my exasperation with the bonus part on _Googie_ architecture, I got almost exactly the same response from Ike about how entertaining an answer it was to him personally. That's really dumb.

I'll also take this opportunity to actually offer a critique of the Googie bonus. That part was asking for the particular regional name for substrand of a general mid-century "look" that manifested in many different ways and in many different regions. The overall development here is the interesting part, not the one little name, but it seems Ike took the lazy path here and just picked the name because it's easy to write on -isms. Compare this with the bonus that went Semper/Parthenon/Winckelmann, which is one of the best architecture questions I've ever heard, because it managed to capture all at once many different strands of thought and practice that had centuries of lasting importance influence in lots of different ways. That's the stuff people actually care about. Googie appears in none of the three survey books I have on my desk right now. Semper, the Parthenon, and Winckelmann each appear in all of them. If Googie really is so fabulously entertaining to you, you can use it and related styles to talk about the overarching issues at hand. Good clueing, like in the latter bonus, really makes all the difference.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:53 pm

Heh, as if to prove Andrew Hart's theorem about the subjectivity of difficulty assessments, noted "person who loves Palenque more than life itself" Doug Graebner pops into the discussion. Sure, Doug, here's the tossup (note: I won't hang my hat on this being anywhere near the greatest Palenque tossup one could write - it was a very late addition to the set, based on a submission):

One panel at this ancient city shows its ruler transferring power to his son Chan Bahlum by handing him a scepter. That ruler notably inherited the throne in this city from his mother, known by scholars as Lady Beastie, which endangered his rule. This city, which fought several wars with the nearby site of Toniná to the south, contains a skeleton covered in cinnabar powder at its recently-discovered Tomb of the Red Queen. The French explorer Jean-Frédéric Waldeck resided for a time at this city, where a leafy corn plant mural is located at its “foliated cross” complex. This site is also home to the Temple of the Count, the Temple of Inscriptions, and the Temple of the Cross, all of which were built a ruler who’s shown in a mural entering the jaws of the underworld monster. That ruler was Pacal the Great. For 10 points, name this most significant archeological site in the state of Chiapas, which was a smaller Mayan city than either Tikal or Copán.
ANSWER: Palenque [or Baak]
(p.s. I've been to Palenque twice, but I don't remember a ton about it)



Also, for all the squabbling happening here, look - I'm not an idiot. This tournament was certainly harder than 2012, 2013, or 2014 Nats - and not as hard as 2011. I absolutely know that most people's ideal vision of difficulty would be a tad lower than this Nats. Probably exactly what Jerry mentioned - take two hard tossups out of each packet, and replace them with two Regs or Fall level answerlines - and that probably gets you where most people think the difficulty should be.

It's not my preferred difficulty, but if I work on another Nats, I'm both capable and willing to go to that level.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by theMoMA » Mon Apr 20, 2015 6:53 pm

The King's Flight to the Scots wrote:I'm pretty sure Evan said this, not me. In any case, I've never used a binary standard of "important/unimportant" in my arguments in this thread. There's a spectrum of topics that are more accessible or less accessible to people with intellectual curiosity regarding the field that's independent of, or extends past, quizbowl. Old Court-New Court, for example, is far on the "less accessible" end of that spectrum. As Ryan's basically said, tons of stuff in this tournament was in the "less accessible," "hard canon" part.
Sorry for the misattribution; I've edited my post.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:06 pm

I'm not going to wade into discussion of this tournament's overall difficulty, or about the difficulty or execution of particular questions, but in as much as Ryan has invoked me by name and is opposing a position he seems to believe is mine, I just wanted to correct a couple of misconceptions.
No Rules Westbrook wrote: I think the real split in play is between the traditional "canon expansion based writing style" (for which I am the poster child) and the new "primary source-driven style" (which I'd identify with people like John Lawrence and Matt Jackson).
This is a false dichotomy. There is no reason why one cannot be committed to both canon expansion and focusing on primary sources, and indeed every writer that I can think of who is known for the latter has demonstrated ample support for the former.
Let's suppose that buzzes in this game can be broken down into three categories:
1. "Pure Real Knowledge" Buzz: One where you buzz on a clue that you have encountered by reading some primary or secondary source completely independently of this game (i.e. you would have acquired the information even if this game didn't exist);
2. "Partial Real Knowledge" Buzz: One where you buzz on a clue because quizbowl has inspired you to read a primary or secondary source (i.e. you expanded on something that has come up in quizbowl by going out and learning more about it, even if that just means that you read the full Wiki article on it or an encyclopedia article, or the Grove entry on that composer, or whatever - maybe you even did that in the process of writing your own question on that topic for quizbowl);
3. "Quiz Bowl Knowledge" Buzz: One where you buzz on a clue because you learned it directly from playing this game (i.e. it has appeared in a packet before, and that's how you learned it).

I like seeing good buzzes in all three categories above. I think that you can make a "great buzz" in all three of those categories, and I aim to allow for equal chance for all three buzzes to happen. But, the modern trend now is basically that: people wildly celebrate category #1, occasionally applaud for category #2, and spit on category #3. Or, at the very least, regard category #3 as just a necessary evil of this game and see it as an inferior, sub-optimal buzz on a question to be avoided if at all possible. I fundamentally reject that turn of attitude that's taken place.
I draw no distinction between categories 1 and 2, I do not prefer one over the other, and I do actively seek to reward category 2. I think that one major point of quizbowl should be to inspire people to engage with works with which they would not have engaged had they not played quizbowl. Stringently adhering to category 1 at the cost of category 2 doesn't serve that purpose well, because then players fail to be sufficiently rewarded for real engagement with the subjects of previous questions. If someone has read a book because quizbowl inspired them to do so, I am entirely thrilled rather than miffed. If someone has read a book just to earn points, rather than out of genuine intellectual curiosity, I may like that less, but there's no way for me to take active steps against that without screwing over people, and so I don't try to do so (and hey, at least they read the book!).

If this hypothetical anti-category-2 partisan was not meant to portray me than I am puzzled as to whom it was meant to refer to, as I have not seen this position advocated by anyone.
Now, sure, it could certainly be reworked and done well as a Hemingway tossup - and I don't necessarily have an issue with that. ...Unless you nutjobs go put a bunch of "Hills Like White Elephants" clues into the middle of the tossup, and backload the clues some poor sap went out and memorized about Fifth Column, once again kicking that player in that nuts! I know you will, I've seen you do it!
I don't know what this last paragraph means. But earlier, you spoke about where to drop titles as if this were an ideological question. I think that how many title-drop clues to include in a tossup (i.e. as part of clue selection) is an ideological question, but I don't think the question of where in the tossup to drop the titles (i.e. as a matter of ordering clues, after they have already been selected) ever should be. That is, I would like to think that if someone handed both of us a series of individual, pre-written clues out of which to construct a tossup, you and I would order those clues the same way, because at that point, all that either of us should be concerned with is pyramidality. If this is a literature tossup, I would first order all the descriptive clues, and then I would have to decide how to interleave the titles among them. But ideology shouldn't enter into this, because there is only one empirically correct place to put each title, from the perspective of pyramidality: it has to go before the description that will generate more buzzes and after the description that will generate fewer buzzes. If my zeal to guard against "fraudulent knowledge" causes me to drop the title later than that point, I have misjudged things and violated pyramidality. Likewise, if your zeal to reward category-3 packet memorizers causes you to drop the title earlier than that point, you too have misjudged things and violated pyramidality.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:14 pm

I'll also add just one more thing - and probably move on to watch some baseball tonight...

I think relatively few people would be here complaining about difficulty if it weren't for the balls-hard Finals packet. I think that packet has colored perception of the rest of the set. And, people need to keep in mind that - if it weren't for some mistakes that happened (which happen, especially under pressure) - three tossups and not five would've gone dead in that packet. Further, if Virginia was playing Penn (or even if Maryland was in there too), the number of dead tossups would have been either zero or one.

Now, I'm not saying that this point makes any particular tossup a good idea, or a bad idea. I just think it colors the perception of the tourney a lot in the immediate aftermath. Take it for what it's worth.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Ike » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:14 pm

Kouign Amann wrote:
Auroni wrote:Ike informed me that The Fifth Column tossup was written by Zeke and was kept because it amused the editors. This is not a good justification for having a question, especially not at a Nationals tournament, especially not during the last stages of the playoff rounds where every tossup in every game between the best teams counts.
I'd like to make sure that this point doesn't get lost, because it's not isolated. When I expressed my exasperation with the bonus part on _Googie_ architecture, I got almost exactly the same response from Ike about how entertaining an answer it was to him personally. That's really dumb.

I'll also take this opportunity to actually offer a critique of the Googie bonus. That part was asking for the particular regional name for substrand of a general mid-century "look" that manifested in many different ways and in many different regions. The overall development here is the interesting part, not the one little name, but it seems Ike took the lazy path here and just picked the name because it's easy to write on -isms. Compare this with the bonus that went Semper/Parthenon/Winckelmann, which is one of the best architecture questions I've ever heard, because it managed to capture all at once many different strands of thought and practice that had centuries of lasting importance influence in lots of different ways. That's the stuff people actually care about. Googie appears in none of the three survey books I have on my desk right now. Semper, the Parthenon, and Winckelmann each appear in all of them. If Googie really is so fabulously entertaining to you, you can use it and related styles to talk about the overarching issues at hand. Good clueing, like in the latter bonus, really makes all the difference.
Well, I wrote the Semper question and edited the submission.

Let me offer you a little bit more context about the Googie question. I think it's actually answerable: I know one team (WUSTL?) that answered that part correctly, and another team who knew streamline moderne. I was amused because the submission was Chrysler / Streamline Moderne / Googie - that's an e/h/h structure right there. I looked up the last two and found them mentioned in a google books architecture book, and concluded they were knowable and possibly gettable. Rather than junking one of two awesome answers, I decided to break out the good ol' 5/5/10/10 bonus so that I could have my cake and eat it too. So yes, I was amused by the entire bonus, but I did do research and didn't just throw it into the set because it had a funny name. As I hope you can see with my Semper question, I really do want to reward your architecture knowledge (you Aidan and you all in general) - sometimes though, as someone who isn't studying architecture and who has talked about architecture in an academic context in my one modern art class I took at U of I, I'm going to miss the mark sometimes.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:19 pm

Oh, and I think John Lawrence's post above is quite reasonable. I don't really disagree with anything in it. How about those apples?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Mewto55555 » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:25 pm

I'd just like to laud Ike (and anyone else who helped, as well as what I gather were some awesome submissions) on the fantastic math questions. This is one of the few tournaments where the tossups consistently rewarded people for actually studying math in a non-superficial way (in particular, the tossups on "exact" and metrizable spaces were absolutely brilliant ideas and pretty well-executed), while (I think) not being too hard for non-specialists. It was a very pleasant break from tossups on mathematicians that consisted of a series of drive-by definitions of unimportant theorems named for them, and I hope future tournaments (of any difficulty!) attempt to emulate it.

The rest of science, as has been noted, was pretty great too!
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 7:41 pm

Since we're all about empiricism, let me support my point that I've made about the finals coloring perception. All you math-minded folks, compare the stats for the last three years of Nationals.

This year:
http://www.hsquizbowl.org/db/tournament ... standings/

2014:
http://www.hsquizbowl.org/db/tournament ... s/overall/

2013:
http://www.hsquizbowl.org/db/tournament ... %26_final/


You can make a pretty good case from those stats that this year was the easiest of those three Nationals! Outside of the wildly good 2014 Virginia team, the other teams' PPG and PPB stats are, on the whole, better this year than previous years. Further, there really isn't a noticeable gap between how teams performed on the Editors Packets and the Regular Packets this year.

The only real empirical support is that the top four teams had a pretty bad packet on the final round EDITORS 6 (though other teams didn't really have a comparatively awful packet in that round - Michigan A scored a ton of points, for example), and the top two teams had a notably bad Finals packet. I really think those two things are coloring what's going on in this discussion.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Apr 20, 2015 8:58 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:You can make a pretty good case from those stats that this year was the easiest of those three Nationals!
This analysis ignores the fact that Saajid, Tommy, and Max have all made not-insubstantial improvements from last year (Saajid in particular), to say nothing of Jordan Brownstein's meteoric ascension and his teammates' hard work as well. You also have Stephen Liu's Stanford team, a team is (probably) stronger than last year's Liu-led Harvard team (sorry, Will H-M and co!) but which had a lower PPB this year than Harvard did last year. Sure, all of the teams in question had major roster changes, but I really don't think this argument holds much ground.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by quagga » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:24 pm

Ike wrote:I know one team (WUSTL?) that answered that part correctly, and another team who knew streamline moderne. I was amused because the submission was Chrysler / Streamline Moderne / Googie - that's an e/h/h structure right there. I looked up the last two and found them mentioned in a google books architecture book, and concluded they were knowable and possibly gettable. Rather than junking one of two awesome answers, I decided to break out the good ol' 5/5/10/10 bonus so that I could have my cake and eat it too.
I don't know about WUSTL, but I was on a University of Washington team that 30'ed this question. (No help from me; every time I visit LAX I notice those strange buildings and think to myself they must be architecturally significant, but I couldn't have put a label on them.) Moreover, was this really a four-part bonus? I remember hearing "for the stated number of points" and thinking that sounded strange. I don't I mind a little variety, but I thought the quiz bowl community nix such irregularities long ago.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:25 pm

Well, my argument is that difficulty's a purely relative concept that makes no sense apart from the skill of the teams playing.

I'm not sure there's any objective scale of difficulty. You certainly can't objectively compare teams in 2007 with teams today.

So, it seems to me that it's the ideal case that PPG and PPB should stay about the same, even if teams improve - because that's the tournament adjusting to the higher skill level of teams.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Ike » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:38 pm

About bonus difficulty:

I really don't think this set's easy parts were any harder than last years. Halford Mackinder as an easy part is an outlier and I apologize for having it shoot some people's dogs, but I decided to randomly bust open a packet from last year's nationals and found the easy parts were sometimes equally brutal. Nicholas Malebranche an easy part? The "Art Institute of Chicago" - all underlined an easy part? - many teams are going to get that name wrong!

Bust open ACF Nationals 2013 or 2014 and I think you'll find that most if not all of the hard parts are equally hard - "Why is there something rather than nothing?", Andy Clark as a hard part! A bonus part on the Caine Prize in literature? I think I kept bonus hard parts the same difficulty - whether it's knowing about Sloterdijk, John Sallis, or identifying famous concepts such as "aletheia," etc.
This analysis ignores the fact that Saajid, Tommy, and Max have all made not-insubstantial improvements from last year ...
Will, not to be glib, but I don't know what logic you are using. Since Saajid, Tommy, and Max, and others have all improved, and the ppb reflects that - that doesn't mean the set is harder. In fact it strongly suggests the exact opposite - that the set is easier or at the same difficulty since if it were harder, it should be reflected as a decline in ppb or the exact same ppb.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:46 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:So, it seems to me that it's the ideal case that PPG and PPB should stay about the same, even if teams improve - because that's the tournament adjusting to the higher skill level of teams.
At this tournament, an equal number of teams (18) scored under 10 PPB as scored above 13 PPB. Is this really an "ideal" difficulty, one that a national tournament aiming at an expanding audience should be shooting for?
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by salamanca » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:52 pm

A bit of context.

I volunteered to write a freelance packet for Nats and chose to write the following literature TUs:

Terence

"The Burning Plain" (Rulfo)

The Fifth Column

Donne's Holy Sonnets, and

Antonia Shimerda (Cather).

Some of these TUs made it through editing and were dispersed throughout the set, some did not, but I stand by the notion that within the framework of this putative packet, having The Fifth Column as the hardest literature answer line of the lot was not unreasonable.

I also, as folks will likely find unsurprising, agree with Andrew regarding the askability of this Hemingway work in the first place. Personally, I read it in undergrad as part of a seminar on Fitzgerald and Hemingway and I recall it coming up numerous times before in quiz bowl as a clue and a bonus part; though, perhaps not recently. As a person interested in literary history and depictions of the Spanish Civil War, I thought it merited to have a TU written about it.

In retrospect, I admit that the fact that is is Hemingway's only full length play could have made it smell more like "trivia" than "real knowledge," but I am still surprised that folks found it too hard to convert consistently. In that vein, while I am sympathetic to the notion that Ryan articulated earlier regarding teams being on notice that any works by a major canonical author are fair game at ACF Nats, I am certainly willing to acknowledge that if the best teams are not answering the question, then it wasn't successful.

The one thing I can't quite understand, however, is this subtext that I or the editors who used this question were trying to screw over literature players. As a person who enjoyed playing on and still enjoys writing substantive humanities questions, I am not sure where that comes from.

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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Cheynem » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:53 pm

Will, I think you really need to look at the teams who are scoring under 10 PPB. There are a lot of inexperienced or short handed teams there (or B teams), with many teams at their first Nationals. Also, there were seven teams scoring 9 PPB among that clump as well, which are only a few parts off from 10. I'm not saying that the set couldn't have been easier (obviously), but I think the easy parts for the most part seemed appropriate.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Mon Apr 20, 2015 9:57 pm

Well, let's save the discussion of what the ideal PPG or PPB number is - that's a fine question, but it's not really relevant to what we're discussing.

Ike and I are just making the point that, empirically, the numbers for this tournament compare very favorably to the numbers in 2014 and 2013.

...And even more favorably to the numbers in 2012 and 2011...

2012:
http://www.hsquizbowl.org/db/tournament ... s/prelims/

2011:
http://www.hsquizbowl.org/db/tournament ... /playoffs/


So, yeah, I'm disappointed that the top teams had a couple of pretty bad rounds in the last two rounds of the event. It's much more entertaining to see them have good rounds that impress the crap out of everyone watching. But, I don't really think that was destined to happen - it's just the way it broke this year. It could easily have gone differently, using the exact same questions.

There's a certain risk in writing very, very hard finals packets (which this one was, though let's be honest, it was nowhere near the level where many other finals packets have been) - it can either turn out spectacular and awesome, or it can turn into a slog. Hey, at last year's nats, Eric randomly knew a horse tail clue about Sertorius (which is an awfully hard tossup). So, that's just the way it goes. Some people would use this as justification for not kicking the difficulty into overdrive during the finals; I disagree with that.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by grapesmoker » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:01 pm

I think maybe 2011 is not the greatest comparison point.

One thing I'm going to try and do is to get the original scoresheets from Sarah and see if I can do some stats on the bonus and tossup conversion.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:10 pm

Cheynem wrote:Will, I think you really need to look at the teams who are scoring under 10 PPB. There are a lot of inexperienced or short handed teams there (or B teams), with many teams at their first Nationals. Also, there were seven teams scoring 9 PPB among that clump as well, which are only a few parts off from 10. I'm not saying that the set couldn't have been easier (obviously), but I think the easy parts for the most part seemed appropriate.
I acknowledge this. At the same time, I think we all knew this was coming a couple months in advance, that you'd have a lot more inexperienced and newer teams showing up to ACF Nationals this year. Given this, I think some of the decisions made with regards to bonus difficulty may not have been the greatest. Admittedly, it's not the editors' job to compensate for less skilled teams' lack of basic knowledge, but if we're not committed to the idea of ACF Nationals being only for the cream of the crop, then some real effort should be taken to ensure that meaningful games are being played at all levels of the tournament.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by jonpin » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:17 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote:You can make a pretty good (case from those stats that this year was the easiest of those three Nationals! Outside of the wildly good 2014 Virginia team, the other teams' PPG and PPB stats are, on the whole, better this year than previous years. Further, there really isn't a noticeable gap between how teams on the Editors Packets and the Regular Packets this year.

The only real empirical support is that the top four teams had a pretty bad packet on the final round EDITORS 6 (though other teams didn't really have a comparatively awful packet in that round - Michigan A scored a ton of points, for example), and the top two teams had a notably bad Finals packet. I really think those two things are coloring what's going on in this discussion.
The round report numbers from the 2015 stats are inaccurate. Looking at the scoreboard, every game that wasn't a carryover is listed in "Round 0", and it looks like the late-stage games suffer from an off-by-one error (i.e. 14 is listed as Editors-2 instead of Editors-1, etc.). Strangely, games with a round listed on the Team Detail page are accurate, but this isn't reflected on the Games or Round-Report. (On Team Detail, the final is accurately listed as Finals-1, but the scoreboard and Round Report list it as Finals-2).

The prelim results have accurate round assignments and show PPG/team ranging 159-201 and PPB 12.5-15.6 (Penn-A was the tiebreaker packet and the PPG/team is weighed down by half-games).
Accounting for the off-by-one error, from what I can tell the PPG for editor's 1-5 were 150, 173, 137, 123, 145; and PPB were 12.2, 12.8, 11.8, 11.6, 13.1. Those are as a group considerably lower than those for the prelim rounds. (The Penn^2/Kenyon, VCU/Berk and Ed-6 packets are ignored because only the top teams and UG/D-II finalists play them)
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Apr 20, 2015 10:44 pm

Accounting for the off-by-one error, from what I can tell the PPG for editor's 1-5 were 150, 173, 137, 123, 145; and PPB were 12.2, 12.8, 11.8, 11.6, 13.1. Those are as a group considerably lower than those for the prelim rounds. (The Penn^2/Kenyon, VCU/Berk and Ed-6 packets are ignored because only the top teams and UG/D-II finalists play them)
To be fair, as Andrew Wang pointed out to me, the PPBs for these packets may be mildly depressed by the fact that the top teams were all playing each other during these rounds. In a game between two top teams, only 20 bonuses (at most) get to be answered by top teams; were those two teams playing weaker teams, they would answer (probably) more than 20 bonuses total and thus probably drive up the overall round PPB.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by vinteuil » Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:30 pm

No Rules Westbrook wrote: I think relatively few people would be here complaining about difficulty if it weren't for the balls-hard Finals packet.
Maybe I'm one of those few people—as Mike & Ike and other people know, I was complaining that this tournament was too hard on Saturday (based on the last few playoff rounds we'd played so far, i.e. the first editor's packets). The number of dead tossups is a better measure of difficulty than PPB in this particular case, and I think these stats have born people who are complaining out about that.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by tabstop » Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:44 pm

jonpin wrote: The round report numbers from the 2015 stats are inaccurate. Looking at the scoreboard, every game that wasn't a carryover is listed in "Round 0", and it looks like the late-stage games suffer from an off-by-one error (i.e. 14 is listed as Editors-2 instead of Editors-1, etc.). Strangely, games with a round listed on the Team Detail page are accurate, but this isn't reflected on the Games or Round-Report. (On Team Detail, the final is accurately listed as Finals-1, but the scoreboard and Round Report list it as Finals-2).

The prelim results have accurate round assignments and show PPG/team ranging 159-201 and PPB 12.5-15.6 (Penn-A was the tiebreaker packet and the PPG/team is weighed down by half-games).
Accounting for the off-by-one error, from what I can tell the PPG for editor's 1-5 were 150, 173, 137, 123, 145; and PPB were 12.2, 12.8, 11.8, 11.6, 13.1. Those are as a group considerably lower than those for the prelim rounds. (The Penn^2/Kenyon, VCU/Berk and Ed-6 packets are ignored because only the top teams and UG/D-II finalists play them)
I'm going to try to get all these sorts of things fixed tonight, and if anyone has other errors they spot (or errors that we fixed and then somehow unfixed) let me know and I'll try to wrap it up into one big update.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Victor Prieto » Tue Apr 21, 2015 12:44 am

No Rules Westbrook wrote:I think relatively few people would be here complaining about difficulty if it weren't for the balls-hard Finals packet. I think that packet has colored perception of the rest of the set.
nope
Ike wrote:About bonus difficulty:

I really don't think this set's easy parts were any harder than last years. Halford Mackinder as an easy part is an outlier and I apologize for having it shoot some people's dogs, but I decided to randomly bust open a packet from last year's nationals and found the easy parts were sometimes equally brutal. Nicholas Malebranche an easy part? The "Art Institute of Chicago" - all underlined an easy part? - many teams are going to get that name wrong!

Bust open ACF Nationals 2013 or 2014 and I think you'll find that most if not all of the hard parts are equally hard - "Why is there something rather than nothing?", Andy Clark as a hard part! A bonus part on the Caine Prize in literature? I think I kept bonus hard parts the same difficulty - whether it's knowing about Sloterdijk, John Sallis, or identifying famous concepts such as "aletheia," etc.
I agree, bonuses were on par with previous years. But in the fifth bracket, an average of 9.14 tossups went dead in our games (that includes the one carried over from Penn B in the prelims). Say whatever you want about PPB, but when a team who's decent at history can't convert tossups on Selous Scouts, Kushan Empire, Pendleton, Thurlow Weed, David Dacko, Metaxus, the Livonian Order and Billy Sunday (the last two of whom were in the same round), it's gonna cost them games that they maybe shouldn't lose. When you're in lower brackets, the number of unconverted tossups increases greatly (I can't point to any answerline and say "this will be converted in upper brackets and not at lower brackets" because it's just more unpredictable what knowledge gaps exist on lower tier teams).

In my opinion, the difficulty of the questions meant lower tier teams weren't being differentiated properly, as Jacob Reed stated upthread.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by touchpack » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:23 am

Thanks to everyone for coming out to ACF Nationals! As Ike said before, I put an enormous amount of work into this set, and it was a blast watching teams that ended up in all of the brackets play and enjoy my questions. I extend my thanks to Matt Jackson and Jerry Vinokurov for coordinating a very well-run tournament, and to the following people (in no particular order) for proofreading, playtesting, and giving feedback on my questions: Gautam Kandlikar, Joelle Smart, Libo Zeng, Cody Voight, Jerry Vinokurov, Seth Teitler, and Ike Jose. My questions would have been significantly worse were it not for the enormous amount of feedback I received from these people.

Since people have been talking about question-writing philosophy, I thought I'd pitch in and explain how I like to write questions. One of the things about quizbowl science is because it strictly adheres to classroom knowledge, which is very streamlined and similar all around the country, there are a lot of topics that are incredibly canonical and by necessity MUST come up over and over. For example, NMR is so fundamental to a collegiate chemistry education that it if you're writing a 25/25 chemistry set, it should literally should come up every single time. Even for a more normal set of like 14/14, it should be coming up in over 50% of tournaments, even if just as a clue about the chemical shift of a functional group or an element in an NMR solvent. This type of stuff means that question writers write on the same things over and over again, often using many of the same clues, which leads to stale writing, like every single question within the past year on the Josephson effect (please stop doing this, you've ruined all the clues by using them over and over again--this might not be tossupable again until 2025 or 2030 at this rate). In my opinion, the best ways to write creative, fresh questions on the same material over and over are 1) to challenge "buzzwords" by using different answerlines for the same clues, and 2) to use easy answers and common links.

1) is something I do all the time. I make sure to write my clues in a way so that it rewards actual intellectual engagement with the material--you have to actually understand the relationships between the clues and the answer to get points. You could call this trying to bone packet-studiers (for example, my DRAGOON tossup on the Golgi that had a leadin about I-cell disease caused negs in many, many rooms), but I think a more accurate description would be that it bones people that don't packet study correctly. I got good at quizbowl not JUST because I took classes, but because I spent an enormous amount of time reading packets and looking up clues and actually learning the relationships between the clues and the various possible answers! One of my proudest moments at this tournament was watching Siddhant Dogra, who negged my DRAGOON Golgi tossup, buzz on the Tolman cone angle clue and correctly identify the answer as "triphenylphosphine," which tells me that he has changed his ways and is now actually learning things for real. I don't care if your knowledge comes from "I heard about it from a packet and looked up the wiki article"--I write questions in a way to attempt to reward knowledge, no matter how it is obtained.

2) is something that is obviously good question writing, since it allows lower-caliber teams to be able to answer at least some of the tossups by the end--but that's not the only reason I do it. Writing on easy answers allows you to explore topics that are well-covered in the science canon in new ways. For example, my momentum tossup was written purely to reward knowledge of Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics--all of the clues pre-FTP were obtained from me looking at mechanics lecture notes. Canonical transformations have come up before, but I had never seen a question reward knowledge of the various types of generating functions for canonical transformations before, so I wrote the clue. The choice of an easy answerline allows me to do this, since a tossup on canonical transformations would obviously be ludicrous. Many of my other easy questions were written with content themes in mind: to give a few examples: MHD comes up all the time in physics, but resistive MHD does not come up very often, so I wrote the question on resistance. Cholesterol came from lipid rafts. Carbon monoxide came from metal carbonyl cooordination complexes.

In general, I don't pick answerlines and then look up clues (although for tossups like N. crassa and glass transition, I definitely did follow that model), I look for clues, and then I think about the potential answerlines I could write on. This process naturally leads to creative questions on easy answers, and when executed well, the results are excellent. I encourage writers: instead of submitting me tossups on like, praseodymium, try this instead! At worst, you'll produce an answerline that the editor can work with, and at best, you'll produce an excellent question.

If anyone wants to discuss their submissions with me, e-mail me at wtbusse@gmail.com. I'd be happy to discuss why I cut or edited your questions the way I did. Additionally, if you think one of my questions was bad (they certainly weren't perfect!), feel free to ask me about those questions as well. You can post here too if you want, I guess.

Again, I hope everyone enjoyed the tournament--I know I certainly did!

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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by njsbling » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:45 am

Thanks to everyone who made this tournament happen! Great job to the editors and the staff. Congrats to Penn for their victory.

My one complaint is the decision to move the first Sunday morning round to Saturday night. Whose decision was that and why was that made? Our moderators in the previous round didn't tell us anything about that and thankfully we were informed by someone else before we left. Four rounds were run on Sunday last year without any issues. The teams not in the top bracket ended up waiting around for an hour Sunday morning anyway while the top bracket finished.

Can someone post the Chicago Tribune TU? I buzzed with "Chicago Daily Tribune" and was negged (although the Dewey Defeats Truman image says "Chicago Daily Tribune").
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by Auroni » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:57 am

njsbling wrote:Thanks to everyone who made this tournament happen! Great job to the editors and the staff. Congrats to Penn for their victory.

My one complaint is the decision to move the first Sunday morning round to Saturday night. Whose decision was that and why was that made? Our moderators in the previous round didn't tell us anything about that and thankfully we were informed by someone else before we left. Four rounds were run on Sunday last year without any issues. The teams not in the top bracket ended up waiting around for an hour Sunday morning anyway while the top bracket finished.

Can someone post the Chicago Tribune TU? I buzzed with "Chicago Daily Tribune" and was negged (although the Dewey Defeats Truman image says "Chicago Daily Tribune").
Here's the original tossup, which I believe was virtually unaltered:

A black employee of this company named Roscoe Conkling Simmons advised Warren Harding on matters of race. This company funded a 1929 trans-Arctic flight that ended in disaster when the plane was destroyed by ice and the crew had to be rescued by Canadians. This newspaper illegally obtained a copy of the Treaty of Versailles and gave it to William Borah to read on the Senate floor, and further antagonized the government by announcing in 1942 that Japan’s naval code had been broken. This paper took a strongly isolationist turn under the editorship of Robert R. McCormick, who called it the “American Paper for Americans.” The most famous incident in this newspaper’s history was captured in a photograph taken at St. Louis Union Station, depicting a jubilant incumbent holding up a copy of this paper and telling the press “That ain’t the way I heard it.” For 10 points, name this newspaper that reported on the results of the 1948 presidential election with the incorrect headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.”
ANSWER: Chicago Tribune

Not including "daily" in the answerline when submitting was an obvious oversight on my part, sorry about that.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 21, 2015 7:44 am

Yeah, you certainly should've received points for Chi Daily Tribune. I hope that you protested. I'd have certainly upheld your protest. Sorry about that.
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Re: ACF Nationals 2015 Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook » Tue Apr 21, 2015 7:54 am

Also, just to be clear, if you felt the tournament was on the too-difficult side, I'm not gonna tell you you're wrong - that's a perfectly reasonable opinion.

But, it does agitate me a little when people keep citing - as a defense for that - the same 6 or 7 tossups. Unlike most editors today, I will throw in a small handful of tossups that are just way outside the usual difficulty. I'll "take a few shots," as I term it - and you don't really see many editors do that these days. But, it's literally like 5-6 shots in the whole tournament.

So, while I understand the angle that you might have felt it deprived you of one key tossup in an important match (though I disagree with that angle), I don't really think it's a good way to prove the overall difficulty of the event.
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